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Gender (in)equality in Botswana(Part I)

Ndulamo Anthony Morima
EAGLE WATCH

The 2017 Global Gender Gap Index ranks Botswana at position 122 out of 144 countries. In this two part series we consider whether this ranking is a true reflection of Botswana’s gender relations.

Often, statements have been made by gender activists that Botswana is bedeviled by gender inequality. Government, on the other hand, has been on the defense, contending that just like it has an impeccable human rights record, its respect for gender rights is without blemish. Who is right?  

In part I, we make a review of equality between men and women in Botswana in both law and practice. We consider such areas as land ownership; non-land property ownership; succession and inheritance and divorce petition. We also use independent travel; access to employment opportunities and benefits in the workplace; and representation in the executive, judiciary, legislature, Ntlo ya Dikgosi, previously the House of Chiefs, and the public service.

In part II we will consider gender representation in government agencies and directorates, the Botswana Police Service, Botswana Defence Force, local government authorities, parastatals, organized groups, e.g. trade unions and employers’ organizations, political parties and the private sector.

First, land ownership rights. We have no law that deprives women, both married and unmarried, from owning land to the same extent that men do. Second, non-land property rights. Similarly, no law in Botswana accords one gender, even regarding married people married in or out of community of property, better rights over the other with respect to acquisition and/or ownership of non-land property.

In terms of section 7 of the Abolition of Marital Power Act 34 of 2004, “…, a husband and wife married in community of property shall have equal capacity to (a) dispose of the assets of the joint estate; (b) contract debts for which the joint estate is liable; and (c) administer the joint estate. Also, subject to section 9 of the Abolition of Marital Power Act 34 of 2004, “…a spouse married in community of property may perform any juristic act with regard to the joint estate without the consent of the other spouse”.

Further, in terms of section 15(2) of the Abolition of Marital Power Act 34 of 2004 a spouse married out of community of property has a right of recourse against the other spouse in so far as he or she has contributed to the acquisition of property by that other. Third, inheritance rights. The landmark case of Mmusi and Others v Ramantele and Another MAHLB-000836-10 has established the rights of women to inherit and, I opine, to succession in terms of family and tribal positions of authority.

The inheritance provision is in keeping with international best practice because as per the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, “…legislation should prohibit discrimination against women and girls in inheritance and explicitly allow females to inherit property and land on an equal basis with males”.

The succession provision is also in line with international best practice because as per the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, “…laws governing lines of succession should ensure equality of rank between mothers and fathers, between brothers and sisters, between daughters and sons, and between spouses.
 

Even in statutory law, I am unaware of any statute that makes women’s rights to inherit less than those of their male counterparts. Hitherto the Mmusi case, the disparity was more to do with practice emanating from the unwritten customary law of some tribes, in that case the BaNgwaketse, than codified statutory law passed by Botswana’s Parliament.

Fourth, divorce petition rights. In terms of the High Court Act, CAP. 04:02, a married woman, just like a married man, can, as Plaintiff, commence divorce proceedings. Neither spouse needs assistance by the other or any other person to petition for divorce. Fifth, rights to independent travel. While Batswana women, especially married women before the passing of the Abolition of Marital Power Act 34 of 2005, suffered discrimination in many respects, they never suffered any legal restrictions in terms of travel. Women, like men, have always enjoyed an almost unfettered constitutional right to the freedom of movement as enshrined in section 14 of the Constitution.

Sixth, access to employment opportunities and benefits in the workplace. In terms of the Employment Act, CAP. 47:01, both men and women enjoy the same rights to employment. Unlike in other countries, there is neither law nor practice which legitimizes more pay for men than for women. Men and women are also equally entitled to such benefits in the workplace as rest periods, leave with pay, paid public holidays, paid sick leave, severance pay, e.t.c in terms of sections 93, 98, 99, 100 and 27 respectively of the Employment Act, CAP. 47:01.

In addition, women’s rights to absence from work in connection with confinement and maternity allowance; payment of maternity allowance; prohibition of termination of employment during maternity leave; and permission to nurse the child after returning to work are protected in terms of sections 113, 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118 respectively of the Employment Act, CAP. 47:01. While Botswana law generally protects both males and females equally, certain gender inequality practices exist with respect to cabinet appointments; representation in the judiciary; representation in Parliament and representation in Ntlo ya Dikgosi, previously the House of Chiefs.

First, cabinet appointments. Both the President and the Vice President are males. In fact, Botswana has never had a female President or Vice President. Of the sixteen Ministers, only three, i.e. Dorcas Makgatho, Pelonomi Vincent-Moitoi and Dr. Unity Dow of Health and Wellness; International Affairs & Corporation; and Basic Education respectively are women.

Of the eight Assistant Ministers, only one, Botlogile Tshireletso, Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, is a woman. One can, therefore, conclude that in Botswana cabinet appointments do not take gender into consideration. Second, representation in the judiciary. Botswana’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, which is currently undergoing a localization process, has four local justices of appeal none of whom is a woman.

As regards the High Court, only three (i.e. Justices Dambe L, Tau T and Garekwe M) out of twenty four permanent judges are women. As regards the Industrial Court, only two (i.e. Justices Marumo J B and Mathiba A R) out of seven judges are women. Though I was not, at the time of writing this article, able to ascertain the gender representation in the magistracy, it appears there are more females magistrates than there are males though the difference is marginal.  

Third, representation in Parliament. Only three, i.e. Honorables Dorcas Makgatho, Pelonomi Vincent-Moitoi and Botlogile Tshireletso, out of fifty-seven Elected Members of Parliament are women. Only two, i.e. Honorables Dr. Dow and Bogolo Kenewendo, of the six Specially Elected Members of Parliament are women. It is, therefore, incontrovertible that representation in the legislature does not take gender into consideration.

It ought to be noted, however, that both the last and the current Parliament have had female Speakers, being Honorable Dr. Margret Nasha and Honorable Gladys Kokorwe respectively, deputized by males. Ntlo ya Dikgosi, previously called the House of Chiefs, too is marred by gender inequality. According to the Ministry of Labour & Home Affairs’ 2008 Gender Disaggregated Data on Decision Making Positions, of the thirty four members, only three were women while thirty one were males.

This situation has hardly changed. Also, to the best of my recollection, no woman has ever been elected as Chairperson for Ntlo ya Dikgosi. This is not surprising because Botswana’s traditional leadership being predominantly patriarchal, chieftainship is inherited by sons from birth.

In the public service too, especially for decision-making positions, gender disparity is rife. According to the Ministry of Labour & Home Affairs’ 2008 Gender Disaggregated Data on Decision Making Positions, 63% of men occupied the civil service’s decision making positions, i.e. D1 scale to F0 scale, compared to a paltry 37% for women. Women had the lowest appointments to the salary scale of F0 (18%) while men had the highest score of appointment to the same salary grade (82%). This situation has not changed.

It can be concluded that while in terms of the law Botswana cannot be accused for gender inequality, it certainly lags behind in as far as practices are concerned. Following the Unity Dow citizenship case, government has done a lot in passing women’s rights compliant laws and amending and/or repealing non-compliant laws. Examples of these are the amendment of the Citizenship Act post the Dow case, and the enactment of the Abolition of Marital Powers Act 34 of 2004.

A little exposition of the Dow case is perhaps apposite. In 1991, the current Minister of Basic Education, Dr. Unity Dow, then a lawyer and gender activist, instituted court proceedings against the Government of Botswana challenging the constitutionality of legislation that denied married women the right to pass on Botswana citizenship to their children. Prior to 1984, women had this right, but the new 1984 Citizenship Act repealed it, even though men married to non-citizens could pass on the right of citizenship. This was the crux of Dow’s litigation.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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